The idea for this post came to me after I received an email from a woman who was a gravel first-timer and thought she would enjoy riding gravel but didn't know where to start. She asked me for some recommendations of where to ride near the Twin Cities. I gave her a list of resources to point her in the right direction. Riding gravel is one of my passions so I decided I should put this information into a post so others can enjoy the Minnesota gravel riding experience.
There are several resources I use to help me discover new places to ride. With this information I can plan out routes and by using my smartphone I can stay on track without the worry of getting lost in unfamiliar territory. If you are new to riding gravel or an experienced aficionado, I hope this information will help you find new roads to ride.
Google Maps has been a longtime favorite of mine for finding gravel and planning routes. Using the Google Earth (satellite) layer I can find gravel roads and map out a ride. Once my route has been created, Google Maps displays the route distance, elevation profile and the option for turn by turn directions by selecting "List all steps" in the elevation profile box. From here you can print a cue sheet by selecting "Print text only" or with the map included by selecting "Print including maps" in the print options above the map.
There are quite a few cycling website/apps that use Google Maps for their mapping engine to plan routes, Strava, MapMyRide, RideWithGPS, Runtastic, and Endomondo just to name a few. Creating routes using these websites will sync them with the corresponding mobile app for use out on rides to keep you on course. These apps will also let you search other user's routes and some even give you the option to download GPX files of the routes for export into the app website of your choice or Garmin GPS devices. For more information and features on Runtastic's Road Bike Pro app see my post App Review: Runtastic Road Bike Pro. To learn how to create routes with your PC using the Strava Route Builder for use with the Strava iPhone and Android apps, see my post Strava Routes Now Available For iPhone & Android.
Gravelmap is an interactive user-submitted gravel route database created by a web developer/cyclist from southern Oregon. This is a growing resource with new road/routes being added weekly as the word gets out about it. Read my post Gravelmap Launches Interactive User Submitted Gravel Route Database for more details.
|Image Credit: MN DNR|
Minnesota has many miles of forest, logging and fire roads located in our State and National Forests waiting to be explored. For more information on riding gravel in Minnesota's State Forests, see my post Explore Minnesota's State Forests by Mountain Bike With Resources From the MN DNR. GORP has compiled a list of road and trail rides in Superior National Forest and more information can be found on the USDA Forest Service website. Information for Chippewa National Forest can be found on the USDA Forest Service website. The Cook County Visitors Bureau has also compiled a list of adventure riding opportunities in Northeastern Minnesota.
Riding Gravel Forum/
Gravel Grinder News
Gravel Grinder News
The Riding Gravel Forum is a place to share your knowledge, experiences and photos with others that like to crush gravel. It's also a good resource to learn from experienced gravel riders, ask questions and join in the conversation on everything from bikes, components, accessories, gravel racing and everyday gravel riding. Read my post New Riding Gravel Forum Provides a Place to Talk "Gravel" to learn more.
Another one of my go-to gravel resources is Gravel Grinder News from Trans Iowa Race director, Guitar Ted. It covers everything from bikes, equipment, events and gravel-related links.
There are several good articles on how to stay safe out on those lonely gravel roads. Guitar Ted has put together this post entitled Safety And The Gravel Road Rider. Marsh Jones, Miesville Grinder organizer has some Common sense tips for riding gravel on his blog. I have on many occasions encountered aggressive dogs out in the country and Crazy Guy on a Bike has written Some tips for handling encounters with "Man's Best Friend" while cycling that will help you know what to do in just such an event.
For those looking to challenge themselves or ride with others there are still quite a few gravel races/rides left for 2014 in Minnesota. I have compiled a list of 2014 Minnesota Gravel Grinders with links to more information and registration details. 2014 is winding down and I will be publishing a new list for 2015 as next year's gravel events start to be announced. For additional gravel events outside of Minnesota, visit the Gravel Grinder News Calendar of Events page.
The upcoming Fall riding season is my favorite time of the year to hit the gravel. Weather conditions can range from warm and sunny to cool, cloudy and sometimes windy. Dress accordingly and be prepared for sudden weather changes because you may find yourself a long way from your finish destination if things turn cold or rainy. When the leaves begin to change colors expect some spectacular scenery on rural country rides. Southeastern Minnesota is where I like to ride this time of year, the hardwood forests along gravel roads in this region are quite a sight for the eyes. Begin a new adventure, leave the hustle and bustle of the city and head out into the country for some great riding on the road less traveled.